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Injured players eager to go
By Mike Spellman | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/3/2007 12:17 AM

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Will they play or won't they?

That was the question posed Tuesday to injured Blackhawks forwards Tuomo Ruutu (knee), Martin Havlat (groin) and rookie Jonathan Toews (broken finger) after all three practiced Tuesday in preparation for Thursday's season opener at Minnesota.

Here's what they said:

Ruutu: "Oh, yeah, I'm ready to go Thursday. Definitely."

Havlat: "Today in practice I felt pretty good, didn't feel any pain or anything. I've got one more (practice) tomorrow and then I'm ready to go."

Toews: "The way I look at it, I want to be out there right away. I don't want to wait, whether it's Thursday in Minnesota or Saturday at home (against Detroit). I just want to make sure I'm healthy."

While each of the three is raring at the bit, Hawks coach Denis Savard seems to be leaning on the side of caution when it comes to his offensive horses, preferring not to rush them into the lineup until they're fully healed.

"Obviously, we've got some tough decisions to make, but we're going to go with what we feel will be our best lineup Thursday," Savard said. "It'll probably be a game-time decision.

"I'm not quite sure if they're ready to play from what I saw in practice."

One player Savard is counting on for sure Thursday is rookie forward Patrick Kane.

"I can tell you he'll be in, no question about that," Savard said. "It's his first game and he should be in. He's played well. We just don't want him to lose confidence at any point in the year, so we'll give him the opportunity to play in the first game and go day by day."

New old man: After an open-ended tryout with Detroit fizzled, defenseman Brent Sopel decided to sign with the Blackhawks.

He's glad he did.

"The ice time in Detroit for me wasn't going to be there," Sopel said. "Here in Chicago, as young as we are, they said they're going to give me an opportunity to play. I jumped at that.

"I'm only 30, I've got many years still to go."

In Detroit, a 30-year-old is almost considered a youngster.

"That's right," he said with a chuckle. "They've got three guys over 40, 10 guys over 35 … this is completely different.

"Coming to this team with the talented young guys here, for me to help out and watch these kids grow and kind of teach them, that's great for me."

Sopel will be paired on the blue line with Jim Vandermeer.

Tribute: The Hawks will be sporting a WWW patch on their jerseys this season in honor of late owner William W. Wirtz.